Issue No.
182, June 2013 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Ibrahim Saba (1935–1993) Painter, Actor, Educator

“When I was younger I snuck into the room where my father was painting. He was standing there in front of his canvas moving his brush between the palette and the canvas like a maestro directing his orchestra. I leaned against the nearby table, holding my breath and standing still so that he wouldn’t notice my presence and lose his concentration. It was fascinating to watch him at work,” said Ibrahim’s oldest son, Osama, as he remembered his father.

This great Palestinian artist, Ibrahim Saba, was born in 1935 in Egypt. He was born with an exquisite talent reflected in his love for colours, beauty, theatre, and the arts. As a child, Ibrahim participated in acting groups and plays, which continued throughout the different stages of his life, starting from middle school up through university. His talent was refined through his bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a diploma in teaching fine arts from Cairo University, Egypt. He also later received his second diploma in child psychology and the arts from Bethlehem University, Palestine.

In 1966, following his studies, Ibrahim moved to Palestine to teach fine arts with the UNRWA Community College in Ramallah. During the 1980s, he was also a part time instructor at Bethlehem University and taught at a number of community colleges in the West Bank, including the Modern Community College (Al-Kuliyya Al-Asriyya) in Ramallah, and the Polytechnic Institute in Hebron, among others. Ibrahim also taught theatre at the Music and Arts Institute in Ramallah.

At the UNRWA Community College (the Teachers’ Institute) in Ramallah, Ibrahim founded a theatre group for students, which was the first group established in the city after the 1967 War. In addition, he founded the Comedy Theatre Group, which was the first group of its kind in the West Bank. He was the playwright, director, and make-up artist of this group. “Avant-garde Theatre” was another theatre group that Ibrahim founded in Ramleh City, and this group existed until 1975.

One of the co-founders of the League of Palestinian Artists and the Naji Al-Ali Group, Ibrahim was one of the more prominent Palestinian surrealist artists of his time. He participated in large art exhibitions locally and internationally. In 1988, Ibrahim received an invitation to visit the United States where he gave lectures about the Palestinian visual arts in several states.

His paintings were admired by all, especially because they emphasised the Palestinian identity while showing the hardships of the Palestinians under occupation and in war, as well as their willingness to live in peace. In addition, while many of his paintings showed the suffering of Palestinians during the first Intifada, they also showed symbols of peace and hope. In one of his paintings, for example, two doves fly overhead.

Today, 20 years after his death, Ibrahim’s art, intellect, creativity, and spirit still linger in the memory of his friends, colleagues, and family, especially his wife Nadia and their three children Osama, Tariq, and Amani.

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